Bode George, former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has criticised the Nigerian judiciary for some of their recent judgement on post 2023 election matters.
During a Monday press conference at his residence in Lagos, George, representing the entire Lagos PDP Elders Forum, conveyed this stance.
The PDP chieftain unhappy with the recent judgements that determined winners in the 2023 general elections had no kind words for the judiciary. Accusing some judges of allowing themselves to be carpeted by corrupt individuals of the political class.
George, along with all members of the Lagos PDP Elders Forum, urged for a complete and structural overhaul of the judicial system, aiming to rebuild public trust in the judiciary.
Prior to the group’s recommendation, George had mentioned judges in the past with impeccable character and who dispensed justice incorruptible to be emulated by the current judges in the system.
According to George, “A compromised judiciary is very dangerous, something must be done urgently to stop this malady.”
Read the full speech:
“We thought it was proper to give our voice to the nation because Lagos State is the largest electorally and by population.
“So we, the leaders of the PDP in Lagos, decided that we should rub minds together and get to a position that must make our feelings known.
“The major discussion today centres on “When Nigerians no longer trust the third estate of the realm.” In other words, when people cannot trust the judiciary system, where else do we go?
These are not the best of times for the judiciary in Nigeria.
“Today, what is coming out of the third arm of government in the world’s most populous black nation is offensive to millions of Nigerians. And when the judiciary is compromised one way or another in a democratic system, then democracy is gone.
“Many Nigerians believe that members of the executive and legislature are already living in different planet, so they see the judiciary as the last estate standing in the realm.
“Nigeria there are hundreds of judges holding the sanity of the judiciary; they not only give judgement but they also deliver justice. Nigerians still believe in them, but because of conflicting and contrary judgements coming from a few, the belief of many Nigerians in the judiciary is understandably shaken, and this is worrisome because if the people don’t believe in the third arm of government anymore.
“Many Nigerians point to some corrupt judges who escape unscathed to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth because the system is too weak and compromised to do a proper investigation.
“We now have a situation when courageous judges who refuse to do the bidding of powers that be are accused of being corrupt and forced to resign—what an irony! In many political cases, millions of people believe, and rightly so, that some judges deliver judgement and not justice.
“Eminent Nigerians knew that the judiciary and justice system during the days of former chief justices of Nigeria, such as Justice Sulty (1955–1958), Justice Adetokumbo Ademola (1968–1972), Justice Teslim Elias (1972–1975), Justice Atanda Fatai Williams (1979–1982), Justice Gabriel Ayo Erikefe (1985–1987), and Justice Mohammed Bello (1987–1995)—the first Northerner to become Chief Justice of Nigeria.
What of Justice Chukwudi Oputa and Kayode Esho? These are legal giants who stood there ground against any form of victimisation and unnecessary manoeuvre from the executive branch of government.
“You dare not go at their faces or even try to bribe them. So the questions being asked today are:
One, what exactly are the problems of the judiciary? Where did we get it wrong? Why is it difficult for the judiciary to assert its control over politicians and political parties? Why are technicalities being used to affirm electoral haste and, in the process, undermine the will of the people and silence them?
“What is the meaning of a typographical error when a judgement has already been delivered? Is it according to some Nigerians that the real judgement was pushed aside and another read, which has now led to a typographical error? In justice delivery in matters of life and death, judges are next to God.
“That is why anything that comes from the court is final, especially from the apex court of the land, the Supreme Court.
“There is no where to go again after the Supreme Court says yes or no on any matter before it—it is the final bus stop. So any pronouncement from our courts must be infallible, but when people begin to question the judgement of a particular court, it shows that there is a crisis in the polity, and this is totally unacceptable in Nigeria of 2023.
“The judiciary recently unto the embarrassment of millions of Nigeria has not lives above board. There are many conflicting judgement of courts of coordinate jurisdiction that Nigerians begin to wonder what exactly is going on? There was the popular saying from the 50s to the 80s in Yoruba which laterally mean “You dare not sleep before a judge.”
“Those were the glorious years of the Nigerian judiciary when judges were judges but what do we have today?
The highly respected Justice Nikki Tobi once said, “A judge by the nature of his position and professional calling is expected to be straight forward, upright, diligent, consistent and open in whatever he does in court and in other places of human endeavor that he happens to find himself”. This is because his character as a judge is public property.
“What do we have today? Some courts constantly come to the rescue of some selected political elites either in political or critical cases. Speaking at the international bar association conference in Paris recently, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olumide Akpata lamented “that only the sheer luck will the Nigerian judiciary produce a good judge.”
“In his lamentation, he said the country is under judicial capture when I was a statutory member of the judicial council—that is referring to himself. The body saddle with the responsibility of recruiting and discipling erring judges in Nigeria. I find out that politicians where desperate to pocket the judiciary. It is deliberate and intentional and it is achieving results for them.
“Embarrassingly, there are incessant conflicting ex-parte orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction. Many Nigerians see this as a cancer worm affecting the judiciary—stories of millions of dollars now fly around especially in political cases—sadly some politicians now use the court as a shield and the highest political bidders are recklessly granted favorable orders.
“A few weeks ago, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, Retired Justice Jattido took the judiciary to the cleaners. Nobody would have exposed the rot in the third arm of government better than the sexagenarian jurist, what a shame.
“Obvouisly, some unholy alliances between some politicians and judges is dangerous to our democracy. Millions of people would come out on the day of our election and queue, collect ballot papers, cast their votes for their preferred candidates. Results will be announced at the polling stations and everybody will jubiliate only for three or seven judges to upturn the popular will of the people. What an affront.
“Pitiably, we now have a situation in which politicians who did not participate in party primaries are affirmed by the judiciary as the candidate because of technicalities. That is why Nigerians strongly believe that some members of the executive suppress and intimidate judges just to get favourable judgement.
“Electoral verdict should be the sole responsibility of the electorate but it has now been turned upside down.
It is now the government of the judiciary, by the judiciary and for the judiciary. Democracy should be about the people exercising their fundamental human right not be govern as we are presently witnessing.
“Now judges select who should be members of the House of Representatives, Senators, Governors and even the President. What kind of electoral system are we running? All vices, electoral crimes, defects, manipulations cannot be checked before the general election.
“Look at Liberia, even when the electoral commission was still counting the votes, George Weah had already congratulated his challenger, Mr. Joseph Bokai, Goodluck Jonathan did the same in Nigeria in 2015. It is our believe in this city that the best the judiciary must do in political cases is to adjudicate, and where there are discrepancies order for a rerun without giving victory to party A or party B.
“In our opinion, this is removing the power of the electorate to elect political leaders rather than the judiciary telling us who the winners should be. This is not good for the polity, this is not good for Nigeria, this is not good for our electoral system.
“A compromised judiciary is very dangerous, something must be done urgently to stop this malady.